Health and Disease informationUlcer

Ulcerative Colitis | Lymphocytic Colitis

What is lymphocytic colitis? It is an inflammatory condition of the colon. Lymphocytic colitis symptoms include chronic watery diarrhea. The inflammation either occurs in areas along the lining of the colon or along the whole length of the bowel. Lymphocytic colitis is so named because of the increased level of particular white blood cells or lymphocytes found in the colon.

Collectively with collagenous colitis, it is known as “microscopic colitis”. This is because the diagnosis is established by histology, a microscopic examination of the cells of the colon. Both of these conditions are rare and occur less often than either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis are more widespread in those aged between sixty and eighty years of age. Treatment is in phases starting with lifestyle changes and moving on to medications and surgery if necessary.

Chronic diarrhea is the most common sign of lymphocytic colitis and is watery and non-bloody and often comes on suddenly. Diarrhea may be constant, or intermittent, symptoms improve and then degenerate again in a recurring cycle. Sufferers of lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis may also experience stomach cramps and pain, bloating, nausea, small weight loss, fecal incontinence, and dehydration.

The cause of these diseases has not been identified although some researchers suggest that bacteria and toxins or a virus may trigger the associated inflammation. Others say they are autoimmune problems. This connection was probably made because those who have lymphocytic colitis or collagenous colitis often have another autoimmune disorder as well, examples of these are, diabetes mellitus, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anemia, scleroderma, Sjogren syndrome, crest syndrome, and thyroid disorders. A possible genetic component has been suggested in some cases.

Diagnosis of lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis usually starts with a stool culture to eliminate an infectious cause of diarrhea. The next step is testing by colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy and a biopsy performed if deemed necessary. The findings of the lab examination can distinguish between lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis. This, however, is not as crucial as the treatment for both collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis is identical. The biopsy avoids misdiagnoses of other digestive problems such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

The goal of treatment is the relief of symptoms. First dietary changes need to be made, decreasing the amount of fat you eat, removing caffeine and foods containing lactose from your diet, avoiding alcohol, spicy foods and those likely to cause gas and diarrhea. NSAIDs can worsen diarrhea associated with lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis. You will probably be advised to take an anti-diarrheal preparation such as Imodium or the combination drug Lomotil.

For more serious problems anti-inflammatory prescription drugs will be recommended to reduce the inflammation in the colon. In severe cases, a short course of corticosteroids will be prescribed, to improve symptoms and quality of life. Although surgery is rare, if the symptoms of lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis are severe, and medications are not working, then it will be recommended.

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